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Synergy Sports defines a clutch situation as the last five minutes of regulation or over-time when the lead is five points or fewer. The NBA Finals’ two biggest stars are the Heat’s LeBron James and the Thunder’s Kevin Durant, who will be looked at to step up for their team in these clutch situations throughout the remainder of the series. The subject of being a closer in the NBA is the cover story for the June 25, 2012 issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now.
Over the last few years, LeBron James has been characterized as a player who is not clutch or can’t close a game out when needed. During the finals, he is attempting to put that theory to rest. James has averaged 30.3 points and the Heat currently has 2—1 series lead behind terrific late-game performances from James in Game 2 and 3. He understands the closer phenomenon but laments it as well. James says, “That’s a problem with our league sometimes. You evaluate the last minute of a game, or the last 30 seconds, and forget this is a complete 48-minute game.”
Senior writer Lee Jenkins spoke with a few past “closers”, including Reggie Miller and Sam Jones, about the mentality that this type of player needs to have. Miller said, “It’s supposed to be quietest in the eye of the tornado. That’s how it was for me. The key is that you’re shocked when a closer misses.”
Durant owns a key ingredient in being a closer—his resiliency. No matter what happens at the end of a game, whether the Thunder has won or lost on a last-second shot by Durant, he’ll be back out there practicing first thing the next morning (page 46).
Cover Story: In A Candid Interview with Sports Illustrated, NBA Star LeBron James Talks 2011 Season, Offseason Work and Growing UpPosted: April 25, 2012
In the April 30, 2012, issue of Sports Illustrated—Miami Heat star LeBron James sat down for a rare one-on-one interview with senior writer Lee Jenkins. In the story “Meet the Rejuvenated and Revitalized LeBron” we find James at an emotional turning point following a tumultuous first season in Miami. Interestingly, this feature appears 10 years after James made his SI cover debut as high school junior entitled “The Chosen One” (2.18.02). The following are excerpts from the piece which will be on newsstands on April 25, 2012:
James on the stress of the 2011 season:
- “I lost touch with who I was as a basketball player and a person. I got caught up in everything that was going on around me, and I felt like I had to prove something to people, and I don’t know why. Everything was tight, stressed.”
Following a devastating loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the ‘11 NBA Finals, James spent two weeks virtually alone in his bedroom with barely any contact to the outside world except for infrequent visits from his mother Gloria James and soon-to-be-fiancé Savannah Brinson. James says:
- “I couldn’t watch TV because every channel—doesn’t matter if it was the Cartoon Channel—was talking about me and the Heat. On the Cooking Channel it was like, ‘So we’re going to make a turkey burger gourmet today, and LeBron James failed!’” During this he also shunned the razor growing a beard “I looked like Tom Hanks in Castaway” he told Jenkins.
During the interview Lebron came across as clearly a deeply thoughtful, reflective individual. Said James on the relationship with his father:
- “My father wasn’t around when I was a kid, and I use to always say, ‘Why me? Why don’t I have a father? Why isn’t he around? Why did he leave my mother?’ But as I got older I looked deeper though, ‘I don’t know what my father was going through, but if he was around all the time, would I be who I am today?’ It made me grow up fast. It helped me be more responsible. Maybe I wouldn’t be sitting here right now.”